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Osvaldo Pugliese - San Pugliese (Saint Pugliese)


Born in Buenos Aires 2/12/1905 - his father worked in the shoe making industry, but was also an amateur musician who played the flute in local tango quartets. It was his his father who gave him his first music lessons. Like his two elder brothers the young Osvaldo started out by learning the violin, but soon switched to piano. After his father have saved enough to by a piano, he trained at local conservatories, before starting to play professionally at the age of 15.

As a young man he played in many different orquestas include those of well known musicans such as Roberto Firpo, Pedro Maffia, Pedro Laurenz and Miguel Calo but his attempts to start his own orquestas such as the Vardaro - Pugliese orquesta, and the band which he formed with Alferdo Gobbi and included Anibal Troilo, met with little success.
He also composed from an earlier age, his first major tango was Recurdo - which because of his age was published under his father's name, which was recorded by artists such as De Caro and the Orquesta Tipica Victor before he finally made his own recording in the 1940s.


During his time with Laurenz, we became greatly influenced by the music of Julio De Caro and the richness of De Caro arrangements would have a lasting effect on the music he produced throughout the rest of his career. Before De Caro all the musicians in a tango orquesta would basically play the same thing, De Caro introduced much richer orchestrations often allowing different instruments the chance to play solos, much in the same way as in jazz music.

Another important development during the 1930s was that following the outbreak of the Spanish Civil War, he became deeply interested in politics and joined the communist party. This led him to run his orquesta as a co-operative, but also caused many problems for him over the years; censorship, limits on the number of recordings he could make, periods of imprisonments (his band would place a red rose on the piano during concerts when he was absent due to imprisonment). His communist ideals stayed with him for the rest of his life, visiting Russia, China and Cuba and even writing a milonga dedicated to Fidel Castro.

He finally formed the orquesta we know today in 1939, the key personnel of the orquesta - Pugliese piano, Osvaldo Ruggierio bandoleon, Enrique Camerano violin, Aniceto Rossi bass remained unchanged until 1958. It was Cameranos sweeping violin parts and the virtuosa bandoleon “variations” of Ruggierio that really define the sound of the orquestra.

It took some time of the orquesta to really find its feet. They did not record until 1943, and it was 1946 before the characteristic sound of the orquesta really took shape, with the release of “La Yumba” with its distinctive “beat” - which aslo came to be known as Yumba, which became an integral element of his music. Here is a video of the orquesta performing the number taken from an Argentinian film of the period.

Hør musik på Youtube: Osvaldo Pugliese - La Yumba

Over the year his arrangements became more and more complex, perhaps musically reaching their peak in the mid 1950s. The music was incredibly advanced for its time, it still sounds modern today over half a century later. His repertoire consisted of both his own compositions and striking new arrangements of classic tangos, listen to his version of Chique for example and compare it to some of the classic recordings of this tango by Canaro or Donato for example. 

Hør musik på Youtube: Osvaldo Pugliese - Chique


Puglise with singers Alberto Moran and Roberto Chanel

He also worked with some wonderful singers: Roberto Chanel, was his main singer in the early years of the orquesta, and perhaps overall his most important singer. He was seen as being a real “man off the street” but he sang with real class. The numbers he recorded with Pugliese are amongst the orquesta most accessible and dancable music. Here is a recording of “Corrientes Y Esmeralda” one of my personal favourites.

Hør musik på Youtube: Osvaldo Pugliese - Corrientes Y Esmeralda

Alberto Moran also made a huge impact with audiences of the, with his dramatic, passionate style he became a real “Pop” Idol with women crowding around the stage every time he sang. Unfortunately the very intensity of his singing caused his voice to decline very quickly, and the co-operative structure of the orquesta meant he never enjoyed the financial benefits that singers in other major orquestas received. Listen to his recording of “San Jose De Flores” - perhaps not the most suitable music for dancing, but an incredible vocal performance.


Hør musik på Youtube: Osvaldo Pugliese - San Jose de Flores

Jorge Maciel and Jorge Vidal also recorded some great music with Pugliese.

The 60s were a lean period for all tango musicians, but Pugliese managed to keep working and produced one or two outsatnding tangos such as a Evaristo Carriego. Here is a recording of Gavito and Maria Plazaola dancing to this number: 

Hør musik på Youtube: Orquesta Osvaldo Pugliese - A Evaristo Carriego

Pugliese was the only one of the “Big 4” to live to see the reassurgence of tango music in the 1980s and the orquesta gave a triumphant concert in Buenos Aires’ Opera house, La Colón in 1985 where his orquesta was joined on stage by former band members - here is a part of the film made of that event, where he plays his early composition Recuerdo.

Hør musik på Youtube: Osvaldo Pugliese - Recuerdo

He also undertook an overseas tour during this period, visiting both Europe and North America, sharing the bill with Piazolla. Although the two bandsplayed seperately, they would join forces at the end of the concert to play Piazzola' "Adios Nonino" and Pugliese's "La Yumba".

Pugliese passed away on 25th July 1995 - his funeral procession making a stop outside the headquarters of the communist party before reaching its final destination.

For more information on the maestro and his music I recommend redaing Michael Lavocah’s book: Tango Masters Osvaldo Pugliese  (

Læs også artiklen: The Great Tango Orquestas

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